At Goodison Park yesterday their grip on the FA Cup was sustained solely by what David Moyes accurately described as a misplaced pass and incorrectly hit shot.
Moyes laments bad luck in Everton's FA Cup draw to Chelsea
LIVERPOOL // "Torres, Torres gives us a wave" sang the Chelsea support. If Fernando was watching it might end up being a wave of refusal rather than welcome. One of the grand questions of the striker's now very public dalliance with Chelsea is whether Torres realises what he is letting himself in for.
Yes, Liverpool are a mess, in desperate need of at least "three or four quality transfers" that Torres had been petitioning for before formally requesting his own transfer from Anfield, which the club are reluctantly willing to grant as long as Chelsea meet their £50 million (Dh291.2m) asking price.
Yet take the kind of long hard look at Chelsea that this FA Cup tie deserves and the improvement in circumstances seems marginal.
Chelsea's is an ageing, unbalanced and disgruntled squad, their manager so callously undermined that few expect him to still be in charge in six months' time. Though the Premier League title remains theirs, the defence of it has all but disintegrated into a battle to retain a Champions League place.
At Goodison Park yesterday their grip on the FA Cup drawn encounter was sustained solely by what David Moyes accurately described as a misplaced pass and incorrectly hit shot.
With the possible exception of the injured centre-back Alex, this was Chelsea's strongest eleven - performing solidly if unspectacularly for the first 45 minutes before allowing themselves to be completely dominated by an Everton side unfortunate not to be soundly through to the fifth round.
Torres has spent long, miserable months bemoaning his fate on Merseyside. Sign on at the Bridge and the only alteration may be geographical.
Like the club's eternally self-destructive politics, Chelsea's football has become predictable. There can be demon speed on the counter-attack and Didier Drogba's brutal power at centre-forward, yet the back four is almost terminally unsure of itself.
John Terry's attempts to hide his fading pace in dropping deeper and deeper towards his own goal, invites opponents into danger areas, feeds them with set-piece opportunities, and increases their dependency on Petr Cech's studied brilliance.
That the goalkeeper retains his proud record of never losing an FA Cup tie came down to a brace of imperious stops. With a quarter of an hour to play and Everton already ahead through Louis Saha's finish at a corner kick, Cech twisted his body to turn away Seamus Coleman's powerful back-post header.
As the fourth official signalled three minutes added time, the Czech international arched his back to touch over Jermaine Beckford's close-range volley.
The importance of the first save was amplified when Michael Essien slid across the goalmouth to block Coleman's follow-up shot and Chelsea broke upfield to equalise through two moments of fortune.
Nicolas Anelka's pass to Ramires was struck behind the Brazilian, who stretched a leg back at the ball but failed to connect. It ran through to Salomon Kalou for an inelegantly struck shot that bobbled across Tim Howard's path before settling an inch inside the far post.
"I think we did enough to earn it," said Moyes. "But the goalkeeper makes a great save at 1-0 from Seamus Coleman's header and at the rebound Essien gets the ball. It's the difference between Everton being 2-0 up to one-each within 30 seconds.
"Anelka breaks and his pass is actually behind Ramires. It goes through his legs and because they're breaking, Kalou goes on and scores. And I don't think he actually connects that cleanly."
Everton's goal was a more predictable affair. Saha has scored nine times against Chelsea, claiming five from his last five encounters with them. On 62 minutes, Leighton Baines swung over a corner, Terry badly misjudged the flight, leaving Saha unmarked to convert.
Refusing to field questions on his employer's pursuit of Torres, Carlo Ancelotti talked of his team's mental strength in remaining in the competition.
"The result was good because we were 1-0 down and at that moment it was not easy to come back into the game," said the Chelsea manager. "It was a difficult game but we showed a good attitude, a good spirit, and good football in the first half."